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WE RIDE TOTAL PERFORMANCE / C4MX’S HONDA CRF250 AMATEUR WEAPON

July 8, 2013
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Just a few short years ago, a rider with a two-stroke, pickup truck and helpful dad could be competitive at the highest echelons of amateur motocross, but alas, the world has changed. Today, whether you are aiming for the World Mini GP, Ponca City, Loretta Lynn or the local Spring series, it is all about getting the biggest jump on the competition, regardless of cost. Four-strokes and money have changed the game?especially in the 250 class. With big-name factory support teams like Geico Honda, Star Yamaha, Troy Lee Designs Honda and Pro Circuit Kawasaki now grooming riders through the amateur ranks, the demands are much greater than they were before. Without the best possible equipment, a young rider is at a serious disadvantage.

To succeed in the amateur ranks and make the step to the Pros, the parents, riders and sponsors have to make a serious commitment to acquiring the best bike possible. You may think that translates into spending lots of money, and it does, but money isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how much you spend if you can’t get your hands on the best technology. To be successful, a promising rider needs to seek the right counsel to help level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots. Yes, most of these kids and parents are deluded about their motocross prowess ? but that is not a decision we have to make because race results will eventually bring them back to reality.

FOR MONEY-IS-NO-OBJECT PARENTS AND YOUNG RIDERS WHO BELIEVE THEY ARE THE “NEXT BIG THING,” SPENDING BEAUCOUP CASH ON A WORLD-CLASS RACE BIKE IS THE SAME AS PAYING TUITION AT HARVARD.

Total Performance’s Dave Dye and C4MX’s Luc Caouette (better known as “Frenchy”) are no strangers to guiding the careers of up-and-coming motocross stars. Dave wrenched for Chad Reed and Tim Ferry, while Frenchy has been an engine builder for Team Yamaha and Yamaha of Troy. So, when aspiring Pro Kellen Davis asked Dave and Frenchy to build him a top-shelf 2013 Honda CRF250, money was no object for Kellen’s parents. They wanted the best equipment that money could buy.


The Total Performance/C4MX CRF250 is fully loaded to run at the top level at the competitive amateur Nationals.

Dave Dye was in charge of the chassis. He put the pieces of the puzzle together while Frenchy built the CRF250 engine. The price tag? $20,000 (bike included from John Burr Cycles). If you think that’s expensive, welcome to the high-end world of amateur racing. For money-is-no-object parents and young riders who believe they are the “next big thing,” spending beaucoup cash on a world-class race bike is the same as paying tuition at Harvard. To run with the big dogs and get a shot at the brass ring, you have to approach it as a career choice. The days of a pickup truck and stock bike with a pipe on it are gone.

Dave Dye picked the bike up from John Burr Cycles and stripped it down to the frame. The engine was sent to Frenchy’s C4MX shop, where Dave says, “They do remarkable work. Their results speak for themselves, and I want the best that money can buy.” When all the work was finished, the bike was reassembled at Total Performance and made ready for Kellen to pick up. Except, this particular bike had one stop to make before it was handed over to its new owner.

Even the MXA wrecking crew had a twinge of guilt over hopping on a young rider’s $20,000 Honda CRF250 before he had a chance to, but an accurate evaluation of what goes into a top-flight, amateur National bike requires it to be brand-new. Dave Dye and Frenchy Caouette met the MXA wrecking crew at the Competitive Edge track in Hesperia, California. We were eager to ride the bike, but even more interested in picking their brains.

WHEN WE ASKED FRENCHY WHAT MODIFICATIONS HE MADE TO THE ENGINE, HE REPLIED, “EVERYTHING POSSIBLE.”



When we asked Frenchy what modifications he made to the engine, he replied, “Everything possible.” The CRF250 came with C4MX’s Level 3 performance package, which includes the following.

Frenchy started with a 2011 CRF250 throttle body assembly, which at 50mm is 4mm larger in diameter than the 2013 stocker ($450). The throttle body was modified for better response ($265). The cylinder head was modified ($400), and a thinner head and base gasket were used for increased compression ($45). Frenchy also went with a more aggressive camshaft ($530), an improved piston kit for more reliability ($275), stiffer valve springs to keep the valves from floating ($200), a Moto Tassinari Air4orce boot for more tunable power ($300), a Twin Air filter to let the engine breathe better ($32), and a high-pressure radiator cap ($37).


The C4MX powerplant is a fire-breathing dragon that has been finessed with beefed-up internal parts to keep it under control.

As if that weren’t enough, Luc also balanced the crankshaft ($250), polished the crank ($250), installed an improved connecting rod ($250), and added a complete Hinson clutch assembly for improved clutch feel ($1000). But “everything possible” means everything, so Frenchy’s list continued with modified valve seats ($550), a ceramic engine bearing kit ($800), high-compression valves ($710), a 2009 CRF250 clutch arm ($60), Vortex programmable ignition ($750), a different injector for increased fuel pressure ($120), and a blueprinted engine ($500). The grand total for engine modifications alone was $7324.

Okay, we lied. That wasn’t really the grand total, because C4MX added an FMF Factory 4.1 full system ($899.99) and VP Racing Fuel MR-Pro 6 ($211.90 for five gallons).

C4MX made these changes for two purposes: First, more power. Second, more reliability. The rationale was that spending the cash up front would save them from spending some serious bucks down the road. C4MX is not only interested in producing significant horsepower, they want their customers to have confidence in the reliability of the machine. Frenchy is adamant that you can’t just make the bike more powerful without thinking about the loads that power will put on the whole system. It isn’t hard to make a bike fast, but if you don’t make all the components down the line better, you run the risk of overstressing the gearbox, crank and clutch. An unreliable engine can lead to a catastrophic engine failure, DNF or even a serious crash that will leave your pocketbook and body hurting.

NEITHER DAVE NOR FRENCHY DO SUSPENSION WORK, BUT THEY KNOW THAT NO BIKE IS COMPLETE WITHOUT THE BEST VALVING POSSIBLE.


 
Neither Dave nor Frenchy do suspension work, but they know that no bike is complete without the best valving possible. Dave sent the suspension off to Factory Connection to let them work their magic. They set it up for featherweight, 145-pound rider Kellen Davis by lowering the spring rates (0.44 kg/mm fork springs and a 4.8 kg/mm shock spring). They also lowered the rate of the fork’s pressure spring to 1.76 kg/mm (from 1.9) to give the forks more initial plushness and better small-bump compliance ($41.95). Factory Connection added their works oil lock collars to improve bottoming resistance ($55.95) and added spring-guide spacers on the forks since the OEM spacers can mushroom and fail ($19.95).

Other changes included revalving the forks’ compression and rebound circuits to allow for more progression, a firmer midstroke ($189.95) and modifying the BCV (Bending Check Valve). Of course, the damping circuits in the shock were modified, including the rebound and high- and low-speed compression ($189.95). Factory Connection used a softer, high-speed compression spring in the adjuster to absorb high shaft speeds with a more positive feel, which reduced rear-end squatting under heavy acceleration and allowed for more rider sag.

MXA BROUGHT ITS HEAVY-HITTER AMA PRO TEST RIDERS TO THE TRACK TO PUT THIS HIGH-END AMATEUR NATIONAL BIKE THROUGH IT’S PACES.


The Xtrig triple clamps are a thing of beauty. We love the fact that you can choose from two different offsets.  

Dave Dye was in charge of all the assembly work and making the chassis mods that separate the wheat from the chaff. Dave used Dubya USA wheels, which include D.I.D. Dirt Star rims, Kite hubs and oversized spokes for durability. C4MX opted for the wider, 2.15 rear rim to get more power to the ground. The wheels cost $1544.90 with a Dunlop MX51FA front tire and MX51 rear tire. Dubya also supplied the bike with a Galfer 270mm, oversize front rotor kit ($295.95) and rear wave rotor ($139.95) for improved stopping power.

Dave went with Works Connection for an assortment of engine plugs, axle blocks and billet brake covers. Extra-sharp, titanium Works Connection footpegs were needed to deal with the variety of track conditions on the amateur circuit. Xtrig triple clamps with PHS adjustable bar mounts hold the forks ($799.99). Factory Backing was in charge of the graphics, and Moto Seat took care of the seat cover. Total Performance added a Renthal chain and sprockets with stock gearing?13 front and 49 rear.

MXA brought its heavy-hitter AMA Pro test riders to the track to put this high-end amateur National bike through it’s paces. We skipped the full retinue of Novice and Vet test riders, because this bike was built for an aspiring Pro, and we wanted test riders who could push it faster and farther than the rider it was built for.

The C4MX engine exploded with power. Every test rider said he couldn’t believe how far the engine would rev. The powerband was similar to a 125cc two-stroke on steroids. Test riders had to keep the momentum going to stay in the meat of the powerband, which was all mid to top. At first, we had a hard time getting used to the way the power was distributed. Compared to a stock CRF250 with peak horsepower of 38.44 at 11,000 rpm and peak rpm at 13,200, the C4MX engine pumped out over five more horsepower at 12,000 rpm and revved to an ear-piercing 14,100 rpm. With significantly increased pony power and 1000-extra rpm, the engine was a challenge to adapt to. Initially, the MXA test riders short-shifted the engine, thinking that the extra horsepower would pull the next tallest gear and make the bike fast and pleasant. But, they soon learned that an all-out attack was the best approach. They quit shifting until the engine had revved to the moon; then, and only then, did they hit another gear. With the big midrange hit, they had a couple of close calls exiting corners. Either they would end up in a wheelie, or the rear end would come around because they had gotten on the gas too hard too fast.

When the test riders were making the transition from a fast straightaway to a tight corner, they found themselves searching for the right gear to downshift to. Either they were in too low a gear coming into the corner, which led to excessive engine braking and loaded the suspension negatively, or they were in too tall a gear and had to clutch it to get back in the powerband. We would lower the gearing one tooth more on the rear to avoid the downshift that was causing our test riders problems.

WE DIDN’T EVEN SET THE SAG INITIALLY, BECAUSE WE WANTED TO BREAK IN THE BRAND-NEW SUSPENSION COMPONENTS TO LESSEN STICTION BEFORE SETTING UP THE BIKE FOR THE TEST RIDERS.



Factory Connection had tailored the suspension for a 145-pound Intermediate rider. MXA test riders tend to be 20 pounds heavier, so we expected the shock setup to be too soft. We didn’t even set the sag initially, because we wanted to break in the brand-new suspension components to lessen stiction before setting up the bike for the test riders. After the initial ride, the checked rider sag was 110mm. Since Factory Connection had suggested 105mm of race sag, we only had to turn the preload 1-1/2 turns to get the bike spot-on. After we raised the rear end, the front end tracked better, and the shock had a consistent feel. With the light valving, however, the shock was moving too fast and wallowing in the corners. We added seven clicks to the rebound, which slowed the shock down, keeping it planted and more consistent.


Personalizing your suspension is a must. Factory Connection takes into account a rider’s skill level, weight and height.

As for the forks, when we applied the brakes coming into corners, the front end dove radically. We went four clicks stiffer on the compression and rebound, which made the forks ride higher in their stroke, resulting in a plush, consistent overall feel. After all was said and done, we were very pleased with the overall performance of the suspension. We weren’t sure that the soft valving would be in the ballpark for our heavier riders, but some minor adjustments got them comfortable enough to push the bike to its limits.

C4MX opted to run the bigger Excel 2.15 rear rim (stock is 1.85), which is the same size as the rim on a 450. The wider surface area changes the profile of the tire and puts more rubber on the ground. Initially, we were afraid that the wider rim and squarish tire profile would make the bike feel sluggish, but it wasn’t an issue.  

The Galfer oversize front rotor meshed well with the overall package of the bike. With all the extra power, the increased braking control gave riders the confidence to hold the power on longer, brake later and have more control in the corners. The feel of the front brake was just right: not too firm and not too soft. Bottom line? We loved the brakes!

Total Performance and C4MX hit the nail on the head. They produced a high-performance machine that is capable of going bar to bar with the bikes of the factory-backed amateurs. To achieve this, you need the total package, which is exactly what Total Performance and C4MX delivered.

For more info, go to www.c4mx.com at (661) 294-9020 or Total Performance at (760) 885-5189.

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